Five years ago yesterday I sailed from Southampton!

Oct 10th 1919
Port Tewfik

My dear old Elsie
Five years ago yesterday I sailed from Southampton! Isnt it dreadful to think of. When I last wrote I think I told you there was definite news of our relief. The days go quickly by and nothing has happened – Today we are told the relieving Regt. arrives on the 14th. When they come we shall have to deal with all our non-demobilizable men – about 300. They are going to the Hampshires at Khartoum and will go by sea from here to Port Sudan. All this will take time and I am so fed up that I wonder now if I shall be home for Xmas! Also the Gippies threaten another rising when the Milner Commission arrives. But I still hope for the best and for the day when I can send you a cable. Many thanks dear girl for your last letter (Sept 15) written at Newport. I do hope you had a real good time and it must have been nice for you to have Leila1 with you. What a long motor journey you had! We have been watching with interest the progress of the Railway Strike2 & wonder what the end will be – the public seem to be playing up well. The Major & I have hired a dinkie little boat & I have been doing a lot of sailing & deep sea fishing – it is great fun. One day last week we caught 148 fish! Thank goodness the weather is cooling at last & these lovely Eastern moonlight nights are simply fascinating
Best love dear girl
from Stan

1 Leila Hyde (1896-1982) youngest sister of Elsie.
2 Railway strike September 26th to October 5th 1919.2

Next letter 4th November 2019

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very sweet to send such a nice present…

Sept 18th 1919
Port Tewfik

My dear old Elsie
Very many thanks dear girl for your last letter Sept 3rd. received yesterday & for the birthday present and good wishes. I shall find the little leather case so useful and am actually using it to keep my Piastre notes in.

It is very sweet of you to send me such a nice present for I feel I dont deserve it in the least. We are having a very special dinner at Mess on the 22nd. and I expect it will be a very gay night. I did not write to you last week for lve been daily expecting news of our home-going – this has come at last for we have had a warning order saying the Regiment is to be relieved by a Regular Battalion and reduced to a cadre by the end of this month. This is of course grand news and with any luck I should be home by the middle of October – We have no orders yet as to the composition of the Cadre but I shall either go home with it or quite independently with Urwick I have been busy today looking out my warm clothes for I expect to feel very chilly in England this winter. I am thinking of you now at Parrog1 and hoping you are having fine weather and a real good time

I will keep you posted up with my movements and will send you a cable as soon as I know a definite date of sailing. Again many thanks dear girl for your birthday wishes & the present With best love
from Stan

1 Newport Bay, Dyfed.

Next letter 10th October 2019

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to Kantara last Saturday to play cricket …

Aug 28th 1919
Port Tewfik

My dear old Elsie
Many thanks dear girl for your last letter (Aug 12) and the Tatler I am still patiently waiting for news of my home-going – I hope the Territorial Appointments at home have been made by this time and if I have got the Adjutancy I shall surely get a cable soon ordering me home. I have got my English uniforms all brushed and ready and am longing for the day to come. I went to Kantara last Saturday to play cricket and saw Karl again – he was at the Demob Camp and by this time I expect he is well on his way home Wont the Babe be excited I will enclose a snap shot of our officers football team – it was taken 4 evenings ago when we played a match against the Sergeants and won by 6 – 0. It is very very hot but we play games every evening for it is the only way to keep fit in this country & then we have a gorgeous shower bath fitted up which refreshes us for dinner – We are really a very cheery lot of officers and get a good deal of fun one way and another

My boils are well now thank goodness with the exception of one on my neck – this doesnt worry me – its when they come on the place one sits down with that they are so uncomfortable. I believe Frank Calway has gone home this week – he will probably be getting married very soon – they have been engaged about seven years – awful long time isnt it!

I hope you are well dear girl & not having too many fights with the other P.C. GovemessesBest love
from Stan

1 P.C. stands for Princess Christian. (Elsie was a P.C. trained children’s nurse). family legend includes no record of fights with other governesses.

Next letter 18th September 2019

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An Italian warship exploded…

Aug 2lst.1919
Port Tewfik

My dear old Elsie
I was so glad to hear the parcel has reached you at last as I was so afraid it had been stolen – I am very pleased too that you liked the things so much. So glad you are going away to Newport in September but I fancy it wont be much of a holiday for you with all your babies to look after.

Since I last wrote I have been up to Cairo to play in a cricket match for my Divisional team of which I am Captain -had a very good time – I took Karl out to dinner at Sheppherds -he is so pale and thin but is actually going home next week so Babe will be happy at last.

I quite expect to have definite news of my home coming very soon now so you must be patient a bit longer dear girl – I am wondering so much what you will think of me in my photo

Great excitement here a few days ago – the boiler of an Italian warship1, which was a anchored in the Canal 500 yds from our Mess, burst and she sunk in 10 minutes – more than 100 poor devils were blown to bits – It was all very distressing

Glad to say I am quite fit again now and enjoying bathing and games but its damned hot and I long to feel a drop of good English rain on my face.
Cheerio dear girl, Best love

from Stan

1 Lloyds Agent at Port Said telegraphed on Thursday that the Suez Canal has been blocked since the afternoon of the previous day through the Italian Warship Basilicata (a small cruiser of 2560 tons) having sunk near Port Tewfik after an explosion. The Times, August 16th 1919.

Next letter 28th August 2019

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my little camp bed will be an inch thick with sand…

Aug 8th. 1919
Port Tewfik

My dear old Elsie
Another week of Army of Occupation and waiting for “Der Tag”. I have no more news of my home coming except a long letter from the Colonel today telling me all about the new Regulations for the Territorial Force and saying that I am bound to be home very soon now. Unfortunately men & officers seem so scarce that we have little hope of any more men being sent out here from home and altho the country appears to be quiet there is in reality a great deal of discontent and rifles are being smuggled into Egypt in large quantities so that any day fresh trouble may break out. I wonder what you are doing now – it is Saturday evening and it has been a broiling day – now it has developed into a sand storm and I am in my tent getting what shelter I can but in a short time everything including my little camp bed will be covered an inch thick with desert sand – It’s a cursed country this – And yet it can be lovely some times Last night for instance Mrs. Norman the wife of the British Consul here gave a wonderful picnic up the Canal on her launch.

I cant describe the beauty of a full night moon on the water here & it was so delightful we did not get back until 2.30 am. We went about 30 miles & landed & played twos & threes and other childrens games after supper There were about 10 ladies & 12 men in the party – we had a gramophone and sang all the way home One record took my fancy so much – it was song by Violet Lorraine in the “Bing Girls” – I think called “So he followed me”. I hope my photo will reach you and that you will like it – Old Urwick thought it very good – you will have to make it do until you see me in the flesh & blood a little later on
Goodbye dear old girl with best love

from Stan

Next letter 21st August 2019

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I have Nile boils…

July 19 1919
Port Tewfik

My dear old Elsie
Im afraid I have missed writing to you the last two weeks but since I have been back from Cairo I have been seedy with what we call Nile boils and have felt so depressed that lve written no letters. I cant describe quite what Nile boils are like – they are sort of sceptic [sic] sores – nasty hard things the size of a pigeons egg. I thought I should have to spoil my record and go into Hospital but the medical orderly here has made hot fomentations almost hourly for me and I am now practically fit again. I suppose my blood is a bit wrong but after 5 years in the East  that is not to be wondered at.

I have been back with the Regiment about 10 days now and was very glad to return. The Court of Inquiry was really a “wash out” in the end – the last 2 days were given over to the Barristers on either side to make their summing up speeches. Our man gave his address quite well and the day following the Native Barrister was billed to give his address – the Court assembled in due course but the Native Banister failed to appear & so the Court simply closed – the native wrote to say he had a more pressing engagement. It only shows how futile the whole thing was. I believe the Military Authorities are now going to take action for perjury against some of the native witnesses. What worries me and annoys me so is that this possibly will mean that lve got to stay in this rotten country until these new proceedings are over – however I try to keep cheerful in spite of Nile Boils.

The night before I left Cairo they had a great victory dinner and dance at Shepheards. Urwick and I went of course and it was really a very wonderful show. I’ll enclose the dinner menu if I can find it. The dancing was extraordinary and quite frightened me. We didnt dance at all – in fact Im sure I could not possibly do these funny new Jazz steps – the attitudes of the dancers were so intricate and looked more like a perpetual cuddle than anything else – as the old lady in Punch said “I hope they really love one another”. The Peace celebrations here on July 14th/15th were quite a success and the men had a good time The French people who are very influential here gave a sort of carnival but I wasnt well enough to go. Todays mail brought 2 letters from you June 28th and July 7th. also a lovely Tatler – Many thanks dear girl lve been reading the Tatler this afternoon & have enjoyed it – I think Eve and Silent Friends better than ever.

The mail also brought news of the birth of my god son – the Milsoms baby – everything going well thank goodness – but strange to say the kiddie was born on July 3rd. which is the same day the one that died in India was born! News from home continues good – I fancy Greta is there now – Marco West1 has been staying at Elm Grove. Taunton seems to be waking up and is quite gay with tennis and dances. Muriel Wrenn was married on July 10th. – quite a big affair I believe’2 -I must turn in now into my little camp bed. It is very very hot here now, quite the worst time of the year

Cheerio dear girl – with best love

from Stan

1 Female friend of ‘the Babe’.
2 Muriel Wrenn, the eldest daughter of Alderman W A Wrenn, had performed in the pre-war Taunton Operatic Society. She was married to Mr Arthur Walker of Liverpool at St Mary’s Church, Taunton.

Next letter 8th August 2019

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The natives have been threatened..

July 4 1919
Turf Club, Cairo

My dear old Elsie
I am still in Cairo but hope to return to the Regiment two days hence. It is very nice here and so luxurious but frightfully expensive!

I was under cross examination from a Gippy barrister for two days – it was very fatiguing and I felt more like hitting him than answering his damn silly questions!

The Court has already found out that natives have been bribed and threatened with death if they dont appear to give false evidence – the Nationalist Party here are really the scum of the Earth!! My dear lve had my photo taken as you wished  it was dreadful ew-stanordeal – I will send it along when ready – I hope the parcel from Alex has rolled up.

Glad you enjoyed the summer weather – I remember how burnt you used to get with a white mark on your cheek where your bonnet strings used to come. It is good news too that Mrs. Brown and the new baby are getting on well – I’m sure you must be having a very busy time.

No more news yet of the Cadre going home but I will send you a cable when I know something definite.

I get many cheery letters from the old Pater still – his last was full of the Whitsun gatherings at the School.

Karl is in hospital again – I have been to see him two or three times – I wish they would invalid him home for he will never be fit in this country1.

Many thanks dear girl for your last letters and Tatlers – Eve’s letters are better than ever and I love her descriptions of the ladies summer fashions!!

Best love from Stan

1 Karl returned home in November 1919.

Next letter 19th July 2019

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The court of Inquiry is going well…

June 21st. 1919

Majestic Hotel Alexandria

My dear old Elsie
I seem to be always on the move now. Soon after I posted my last letter to you I was ordered to go to Alexandria to see Army Headquarters about some details connected with the Regiment – principally about demobilization & reinforcements etc. I have had my interview this morning and am going to the Races this afternoon and back to Cairo by the night train. I was thinking of you this morning when walking along these wonderful shops and I was tempted to buy you a wonderful dressing gown in pink and embroidered by the ladies of the Harem here – also a string of Lapis Lazuli beads1 which are very hard to get now-a-days – please accept these with my fondest love and as a little thank offering for all you’ve done for me and especially for what youve been to me thro all these horribly [sic] years of war. I thought the beads would look best strung between your amber ones they will make the necklace a better length. But you must do as you like with them – only they are much more valuable than the amber beads. G.H.Q. told me today they thought that I should be on my way home with the jolly old cadre soon.

The Court of Inquiry in Cairo is going as well as possible for us – the native witnesses are getting tied into splendid knots – the old women are most amusing – they come and swear they were raped by the Tommies and go into minute details! I should have to blush if it wasnt all so horribly false – I hope I shall back a winner this afternoon but I never get much luck and these damned Egyptian jockeys wont ride “straight” and honest
Best love dear girl from Stan

1 The pink dressing gown and Lapis Lazuli beads are still in the family, 1998.

Next letter 4th July 2019

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I really think I shall be home soon

June 19 1919
Turf Club Cairo

My dear old Elsie
I think I told you I was going to Cairo to give evidence in a Court of Enquiry so here I am enjoying a thoroughly luxurious time with old Urwick. The enquiry is likely to last another week – there are about 60 of these damned Egyptians all swearing the most abominable lies. It is really ludicrous to see the awful looking women – black as coal and ugly as sin – who come up and swear  they were they were raped by British Tommies – It is all a put up job by the Nationalist party out here. However it gives Urwick and I a very pleasant holiday. We are down at the Court in the morning – afternoons we go to the Sporting Club and watch the Cricket & polo. I wish I had brought my flannels up as I should have been able to play games – the last time I played for the Regiment versus Suez I made 102 not out – so I’ve still got a good eye I’m glad to say. Your letters come very quickly and regularly now & the Tatlers too many thanks, dear girl.

And do you know – I really think I shall be home soon – We have just been told that the Cadres of all 1st. Line pre-war Territorial Units like ourselves are to go home as soon as possible in order to reconstruct the new Territorial Army. This means I shall go with the Cadre and all the records – papers and property – if they want me to stay on as Adjutant for a year or so at home I think I shall do so and in the meantime look out for something to definitely settle down in. I am wondering if the old Boche is going to sign.1

No news of Harold & Alice passing through yet – I may be home first after all
Cheerio and best love dear girl
from Stan

1 The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28th 1919 between the Allies and Associated Powers (which included the USA) and Germany.

Next letter 21st June 2019

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I have to give evidence

9/6/19
Suez

My dear old Elsie
I am so delighted to get your letters and Tatlers regularly now – it makes such a difference to ones existence in this God forsaken country!

Very many thanks dear girl. Its Whit Monday – they are having great doings at home and at the old School1 – I should love to be there – Since I last wrote I have been up at Kantara – 250 men came out from home for us and I was ordered to go and fetch them and sort them out. Tomorrow old Urwick and I have to go to Cairo to give evidence in a Court of Enquiry. The natives of Upper Egypt have made accusations against the British Troops who went down in March and we have to refute them – they accuse us of violence – rape – theft and all sorts of things and I see they have been asking questions in Parliament2 – It makes me wish we had killed more of the swine. The[y] produce witnesses who are paid to lie and I believe women are going to appear at the Court who will swear they were raped. It is disgusting and makes me so angry. Our men wouldnt dream of touching the women and children. I will try to write you again from Cairo

My Colonel called to see the old Pater a little while ago – The Territorial Force Assoc. is trying to get the cadre of the 1/5th. home so I may be sailing before long. They are also persuading me to stay on as adjutant of the new Battalion at home!
Best love dear girl
from Stan

1 ‘The School Commemoration in 1919 was, not unnaturally, a solemn affair. Dr. Whittaker [Headmaster since 1899] preached most eloquently at the special service when the roll of the dead was called [He] was visibly moved as he evoked the homes left desolate…’ John Brown Independent Witness, Taunton 1997, p.246.

2 Hansard records a long debate on May 15th 1919 concerning behaviour of British troops and expressing confidence that they would not have practised violence, rape, theft, etc

Next letter 19th June 2019

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